Post by Deleted on Dec 27, 2015 12:22:17 GMT -5
I believe you might want to re-think your impressions. I swore to myself I would never go over this again: I had done it pretty fully in my book, Strategy, but since it has been brought up once more, let me summarize things without the usual distortions and omissions used to justify opinions, theories, and hatreds.
Dustin, Fred— Some time after the battle, the river course changed again and the water flowed in the old channel where Reno’s skirmish line in the timber—on Gerard’s “brow”—was.
DeRudio, C., LT— The timber was horseshoe shaped on a dry creek. The bottom was twenty-five yards wide and thickly wooded. Thick undergrowth and large cottonwood trees on the riverbanks. The bank was ten to twelve feet high—to the prairie—and few places to go down except on pony paths. Glade was two or three acres and lodges had been there, though no longer. DeRudio thought the timber could have been held as long as the command had ammunition. He also felt that if the ammo had been used judiciously, it would have lasted for three or four hours.
Walter Mason Camp/DeRudio, C., LT— In Camp's words, “DeRudio says Reno should have held to the timber. Says there they would have had reasonable shelter, and Indians would never have come into the brush to fight, and Reno could easily have stood them off and held a thousand of them there who went down to fight Custer.”
Gerard, Fred— The timber was in a bottom formed by the river. Its left edge was twelve or thirteen feet lower than the plain. Gerard felt with enough ammo and provisions, the timber could have been held. Gerard felt Reno could have made a splendid defense in the woods, but that Custer would still have been defeated because there were too many Indians. He generally stuck with his estimate of at least 4,000 warriors. While he gave no timeframe, Gerard felt Reno could have tied down several hundred Indians, because they were only firing at long range.
Gibbon, J., COL— Some of the timber in Reno’s woods was of considerable size. The timber “was just above where the stream cuts into the second bench a considerable way,” leaving the bank almost as high as the ceiling in the inquiry room. There was no timber around the bend. Inside the timber there was a wide-open space, maybe fifty yards wide, with evidence of an old Indian camp. “… There was another open glade looking toward the prairie to the left and rear of the position.” The bluffs were back from the stream opposite Reno’s timber position. Gibbon did not think those bluffs could have commanded much of the woods because they were too long a rifle shot away. “the bluffs were high from just below Major Reno’s position to some distance down the stream.”
Goldin, T., PVT— Goldin described Reno’s timber: “there was a forest… of good sized cottonwoods, in which there was sagebrush, bullberry thickets and considerable rank grass.”
Hare, L., LT— There was very little large timber there; it was mostly underbrush. “The basin or park was about 200 yards wide and the north bank four or five hundred yards long where it runs into the river. There is a cut bank downstream and there is a bend on the other side continuing to where the river makes this cut bank, in this there is a little park containing about ten acres of ground.” The prairie was five or six feet above the level of the “park” and ran around the “park.” You could see all the way back to Ford A from the edge of the timber. Hare felt that if the Indians had charged the woods, the command would not have lasted more than a few minutes, but Indians did not fight that way. “I think we could have stood them off about thirty minutes by using the ammunition judiciously.” If they had stayed in the timber much longer—even twenty minutes—they would have been shut in and would not be able to get out.
Herendeen, George— The glade was between the village and where Herendeen tied his horse. Herendeen sat down in the buffalo trail and waited for the Indians to get closer. Believed Reno could have easily held the timber, despite what Herendeen figured might be as many as 1,800 lodges and 3,500 warriors.
Maguire, E., LT— Timber was 150 yards wide by Reno’s skirmish line. Trees on the right bank—across from Reno’s timber—were sparser than the foliage in Reno’s timber.
Moylan, M., CPT— From the skirmish line’s right to the river was probably 150 to 200 yards. The first thirty yards were timbered, the balance being trees here and there with scattered underbrush. “In the timber was some heavy undergrowth.” From where the horses were put into the woods, the timber bent down toward the river. There was no timber where they crossed during the retreat, but above that the timber began again. If they had remained in the timber, Moylan said the command would have been “annihilated.”
Porter, H. R.— Porter’s description of the timber is not very good. It seems he paid little attention to it, describing its width at 500 yards, but maybe not over 200-300 yards. He did, however, say it was in a bend of the river. He thought the nearest tepee was about 1/4 mile away and the village extended downriver for more than a mile.
Varnum, C. A., LT— Varnum rode into a glade within the timber and saw the stream. He figured part of the village was across the river and that was what they were going to attack. He described the timber as being very heavy along the edge of the second bench; dense underbrush, little paths into it made by animals, then the glade with grass, small tress along the river’s banks. Varnum thought it might have been 100 yards from the right of the skirmish line to the river. Varnum said it was tough getting into the timber: “… delayed by the narrow intricate paths in the first edge of the timber…” Reno asked him to go back and check on the line, then report to him. Varnum described the timber: in the timber there was an opening (a glade) from where you could see the stream, probably the downstream side of it. (He assumed a detached part of the village was on the other side of the river and that was what they were going to attack. Reno was there with G or a part of it and Reno asked Varnum to return to the line and then report how it was faring.) “In the timber there is a little glade or opening, and I know in riding in on to this opening I could see the stream in one direction, so we must have been near the stream, and I could see the line of the opening in front, and supposed there was a detached portion of the village on the other side of the stream, and that is where they were going.” Varnum felt the timber was not a safe place to be. He did say that a lot of bullets were beginning to come in from the rear. He did not see any Indians there, but didn’t know whether the rounds came from up on the bluffs or in the woods. He realized these rounds were coming in just before they left the woods. Varnum was asked if there was any place in the bottoms where a good defense could have been organized. He said he did not know and did not even know how large the woods the command occupied were. He felt there were not enough troops to hold that timber. Varnum felt the edge of the woods (“brow,” in Gerard’s words) was an excellent defensive position. It was the rear—the part along the river—that was of concern.
Wallace, G. D., LT— Reno’s timber grew in a former bed of the LBH and the trees were young, none as big as a man’s body. Thick undergrowth. The body of timber was crescent-shaped on a bank four or five feet high. Only 25 yards wide, no protection. Could not have remained there. The bottoms were four to five feet higher than where the timber grew. Moylan’s testimony: “… From the timber Major Reno could not have done any damage to the village or anyone in it. The ground was so much lower than that on which the village stood that he would overshoot the village.” One end of the timber was probably 100 yards from the village. The timber concealed the dimensions of the village, so Wallace could not judge its physical dimensions. Could not estimate numbers except that he “saw plenty of Indians.” Wallace felt if Reno had remained in the timber every man would have been killed.
Benteen, F., CPT— Benteen said if he had tried to make the timber his “losses would have been very much greater than they were….” He felt the seven companies would have been wiped out. Benteen thought the timber could have been held for five to six hours. He said early the next morning they would have all been killed. Benteen was asked if he had joined Reno in the timber, would not that threat have helped Custer. He replied, “It would not have made a particle of difference.”
Culbertson, F., SGT— Culbertson did not think the command would have been able to survive for more than another few minutes in the timber.
Ryan, John, 1SG—“In my opinion, if Reno had remained in the timber a short time longer not a man would have made his escape as the Indians outnumbered us ten to one.”
Iron Hawk/Runs In Circle— Iron Hawk claimed that “the Indians were so thick that Reno’s men would have been run over and could not have lasted but a short time if they had stood their ground in the woods.”
Red Feather—“The Indians who couldn’t catch their horses went in the woods on the side of the soldiers and shot at them from the side—not the back... from the side.”
Godfrey, E. S., LT— Godfrey felt the timber position was strong. Godfrey wrote that he and Hare went down into the valley on June 28, 1876, to examine Reno’s position in the timber. After listening to Hare’s explanations, Godfrey told him Reno could and should have held that position. Hare did not agree.
Wooden Leg— He did not think the soldiers would last “many hours” in the timber.
A little added bonus--
Major General Sir Charles Edward Callwell (a British colonial soldier, trained at the Royal Military College and commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1878)— Should mounted troops, unsupported by infantry, come upon a hostile gathering on ground where charging is impracticable, they have no option except to dismount and to act on foot. On ground where there is a good field of view there is no objection to cavalry doing this; but it is most dangerous when there is any fear of a sudden rush of determined foeman directed either against the dismounted troopers or the horseholders, and under these conditions mounted rifles always have an awkward task.
Carl von Clausewitz— It is in the interest of the defender, even more than of the attacker, to command an unimpeded view, partly because he is the weaker of the two, and partly because the natural advantages of his position lead him to develop his plans later than the attacker…. If [the defender] took up a position in the middle of the forest, both of course would be equally blind; but this equality would be detrimental to his interests…. Impenetrable forests… where one must keep to the roads traversing them—do present opportunities for indirect defense… one can initiate a battle when conditions are favorable…. No matter how impenetrable a forest, however, its direct defense is still a risky matter… and no forest is so impassable that small units cannot infiltrate it in hundreds of places… a general breakthrough is sure to follow.
... and from Strategy--
The artifact field in the old dry channel brow was extensive, but only for some two hundred seventy yards, indicating a fifty-four-man line were the proper interval maintained. Regardless, interval was not maintained and men began to bunch as pressure mounted and they were withdrawn. Gerard thought the men on the brow were no more than six feet apart (one hundred fifty to one hundred fifty-eight yards), versus the textbook solution of fifteen feet (three hundred seventy-five to three hundred ninety-five yards). The distance along the dry creek bed from the right flank of the brow line to the river was two hundred thirty-five yards, which was almost as long as the skirmish line itself (or much longer if we use Gerard’s measurement). The distance along the channel from the left flank of the line to the active river was much greater, some four hundred twenty yards. This latter area was especially troubling, for it was the troops’ left flank the Indians had been concentrating on and it was along this axis any breakout to safety would have to occur. It was an impossible situation to maintain and if the line had been spread from one end of the dry channel to the other, the distance between men would have been some thirty-five to forty feet, completely unacceptable in any sort of defense, fluid or otherwise. While the preponderance of force was located on the brow, other men struggled in the brush, many held to the buffalo trails. Within the timber, there were no proper fields of fire, no areas where interlocking and enfilading carbine fire could maintain a proper defense and withstand Callwell’s “sudden rush.” Other, much-needed troops kept the horses in the glade, unable to contribute to any action and strapped with the possibility of being hit by infiltrators. With an inability to cover the entire area, the line’s rear was in peril from easy ingress from the right and increasing danger from across the river behind. There was enough brush and timber on the east bank of the Little Big Horn to cover warriors fording the river, and not enough troops to prevent such a crossing. Infiltration was a major concern and at the 1879 inquiry there was ample expression of just such fear. There were reports Indians were beginning to set fire to the timber, a common enough ploy, and even if that had not happened prior to the retreat, it was to occur shortly after the troops left for the bluffs, threatening the twenty men left behind. And we have not even mentioned the continuing and increasing threat from the left, the direction the command needed to go if it was to reach safety.
Dear me...!!! The math has been done.